Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Special Copies of Villette, Part 1 – Lewis Carroll’s

In libraries in the United States a few copies of Charlotte Brontë’s Villette can be found that once belonged to equally renowned authors. The Rosenbach Library in Philadelphia for instance has one that was part of the collection of books of Charles Dodgson (1832-1898), better known as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass. He must have loved Villette. He had two copies of the novel!

When Charles was eleven years old his family moved from Cheshire to Yorkshire, where his father, a vicar too, got a new and better position. They lived in Stock-on-Trees, near Darlington, but it also brought them sometimes to the Cathedral of Ripon, not that far from Haworth. At home he, like the Brontës, wrote domestic magazines. In 1846 he went to Rugby School, where he spent three unhappy years, and then he went to Oxford. For the rest of his life Dodgson would live there at Christ Church College.

One of Dodgson's rooms at Christ Church, Oxford

Monday, 17 April 2017

Looking at Charlotte: Views of the eldest Bronte sister from Brussels and the UK

Talks by Helen MacEwan and Sam Jordison on 1 April

The first speaker at the Brussels Bronte Group's latest Saturday talks can more usually be found introducing lectures than giving them herself. But Helen MacEwan, founder of the group and a familiar face to all its members, on the 1st of April this year took the podium herself.

Helen MacEwan and Jones Hayden

In 2014 Helen’s book ‘The Brontës in Brussels’ was published, a guide to Charlotte and Emily Brontë’s time at the Pensionnat Heger. The subject of her talk was ‘Charlotte Brontë seen by the Belgians: Some views from ‘Labassecour’.' Charlotte was famously unimpressed with much that she found in Brussels in 1842 and 1843, at the same time as being in love with the beauty of the 19th century town - and very probably with one of its citizens, the school teacher Constantin Heger.

Helen sought to correct the idea that Charlotte's opinion of Brussels had been overwhelmingly negative, and to report some reflections from the other side: impressions the Yorkshire writer made on the Belgians. Yes, Helen said, Charlotte had renamed Belgium as Labassecour – the farmyard, or the poultry yard - for her novel. But she was writing at a time when England and Belgium found much to admire in each other, with Belgium seeing the United Kingdom as the cradle of democracy, and the the UK finding the first king of the Belgians, Leopold, an ideal constitutional monarch. Much of this positive feeling is reflected in Charlotte's description of the beauties of Brussels, in her novels and her letters, which were not only filled with damning portraits of slovenly Flemish students. Charlotte's personal and published writings are also full of praise for a wide range of Belgian pleasures, from the fashions seen on the streets and the culture and lights of the city, to the pistolets she seems to have enjoyed eating so much.

Helen MacEwan

Some of the first Belgian reviews of Villette were as uncomplimentary as Charlotte's descriptions of her pupils at the Pensionnat Heger, Helen said. A 1954 review said the book was full of “mockeries and calumnies.” Another critic said it was as misleading for Charlotte to base her portrait of Belgium on experiences at one school as it would be for a writer to use a workhouse as a model for the whole UK. Later critics compared Charlotte to Baudelaire, whose 'Pauvre Belgigue' gives an almost universally negative report of Belgium.

The first French translation of Villette available in Belgium, 'La maitresse d'anglais, ou Le pensionnat de Bruxelles' gives Brussels and Brussels place names their real names, dropping Villette and Charlotte’s fictional names. More significantly, many of the more damning passages about Belgium and the Belgians are changed in translation to become much more flattering. Helen, a translator for the European Commission as well as a writer, said she would never be allowed to do such such "creative" work in her day job.

But despite the positive spin given to Charlotte's novel in its French translation, Jane Eyre remained the more popular novel for Bronte fans visiting Brussels in the writer's footsteps, Helen said. Many members of her audience this month nonetheless will feel a special fondness for Villette, as a portrait of the fascinating but at times frustrating town in which they live - many of them as immigrants, like Charlotte herself.

The second speaker in Brussels on 1st April was unfamiliar with Brussels - but has published a guide to the worst towns in Charlotte's home country. Titled ‘Crap Towns: the 50 worst places to live in the UK’, Sam Jordison controversially includes the Brontes’ birthplace of Haworth in his list of places no sensible person should choose to live.

Sam Jordison

Jordison is a journalist, critic and humorous writer, as well as leader of the Guardian's Reading Group. He has also led anti-Brexit campaigns in the UK - an affiliation that won him a round of applause from most members of the audience at this month's talk. Jordison  explained that, while many of the "crap towns" had won their place in his book because they fostered the social problems and alienation "that led to the disaster of Brexit," Haworth's inclusion could be blamed on the Brontes themselves.

Haworth "killed the sisters," he said, with its open sewers and lack of hygiene giving citizens an average life expectancy of 25.8 years in the mid-19th century. Had they lived in another town, Jordison said, the sisters might have lived "full lives." Instead, their early deaths were followed by Haworth's conversion into "a theme park," with no real life of its own, only a series of tributes and commemorative sites in honour of its famous former inhabitants. He refereed to a 1977 documentary, "the Bronte Business," which showed how the life had been drained out of the town in favour of a money-making tourist industry.

Following Helen's comments on how the Belgians saw Charlotte, Jordison remarked on how the Brontes would have seemed to their own contemporaries in Haworth. Far from being isolated, as is often imagined, the parsonage would have been "the centre of life" in the Victorian hill town. But the Brontes were "cut off" from life in Haworth, he said. "Of course they were eccentric." The sisters would have seemed out of place at any time in history, he said, choosing to keep themselves apart from their neighbours. Even Jane Eyre was in its time an "old fashioned" story, he said, with its "Byronic hero" two decades after Byron's death.

The distance we sometimes feel from the Brontes' writing is sometimes even greater today, said Jordison, a self-described "long-standing admirer" of their work. A reader often finds him or herself "making excuses for Jane" when reading Charlotte's most famous novel, he said. Jane operates under "a very different moral code" from 21st century readers - as well as from Rochester and the Rivers in her own time.

But the fact that we do make excuses and sympathise with the writer and her heroine is "a mark of how real Jane feels,"  Jordison said. But he added that Jane Eyre is "a book out of its own time, just as Bronte was out of her own time.”

Emily Waterfield

Monday, 3 April 2017

The Translations of Villette and The Professor – New Acquisitions Part 2 – 400 Comes Up

While doing more research for the China article, the last of the translations series published recently, I found several more previously unknown editions. China brought the total score to 396 editions that have been reported here.

Earlier, recently, a new 2016 Italian edition was found with both novels, and indeed the other Brontë novels too, Tutti I Romanzi. It was published by Newton & Compton (1920 pp.). It has the translation of Marcella Hanau of Villette, and a new translation of The Professor by Angela Ricci. It’s only the second book which has both novels in translation (counting as two translated editions).

Cover of the 2016 Italian Villette,
The Professor
 and the other
Brontë novels

And an Italian The Professor was discovered that was published on 1 February of this year, also by Newton & Compton (192 pp.). It is a second edition for the Angela Ricci translation. From a chronological point of view this is the 399th translated edition. (It appears that nr. 398 is the Swedish The Professor of October 2016.)

Monday, 20 March 2017

Villette and The Professor in China

The first Chinese Villette was published in 1932, in Shanghai, in a translation by Wu Guangjian (1867-1943). In 1930 his Wuthering Heights translation had been published. He also did Jane Eyre, it was published in 1935. Before that, in 1933, this Villette (or:  洛雪小姐遊學記; Luoxue xiao jie you xue ji), got a second edition, of which we know a bit more. It was published by Shanghai Commercial Press, in two volumes (290 and 306 pp.).

Cover of the first volume of the
1933 Chinese Villette

Worldcat has an edition of ‘192?’, but this is certainly a mistake. The 1933 work refers to the first edition of 1932 (or rather the 21st year of the new Chinese empire timetable).

The translation got a third edition in 1971, in Taiwan. It has already been described in an article of May 2016. Later I also explained that the title translates as ‘Miss Luo Snow’s study tour in the mind.’

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

10 top tips from the Guardian's Brussels correspondent

We are happy to read that the Brontës have ended up on a list of top 10 tips what to do in Brussels. There is also a reference to our guided tours. Here is what they say.

Discover old Brussels, Brontë style
Charlotte Brontë was famously rude about Belgium, after living in Brussels for a couple of years from 1842. But don’t let that put you off the Brussels Brontë society’s fascinating walking tours, which offer a window into a vanished world. In a couple of hours you can unlock a few secrets, from a hidden bust of Peter the Great, which marks the spot where the drunken tsar fell off a fountain, to the long-demolished boarding school where Charlotte lived, worked and dreamed up novels. Check online for dates. Tours (around €10pp) may be possible for groups of 10 or more. 

For more tips what to do and see in Brussels have a look at the Guardian's article.


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Book signing by author Helen MacEwan

On Sunday 12 March Helen will be signing her book Les Soeurs Brontë à Bruxelles, published by CFC-Éditions. It takes place at the bookfair in Tours et Taxi. 

You will find her at ‘Espace Livres et Création’, stand no. 230 from 16.00 to 17.00. 

Let any francophone friends know who might be interested, and if you’re at the fair that afternoon, do go and say hello to Helen!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Villette and The Professor in Japan

There have been six editions of Villette and The Professor in Japanese, three of each. They were all published in a ‘complete works of the Brontës’ series. The first Villette was published in 1952, by David-sha which also published the first The Professor in 1954. Both were translations done by Jiro Sagara. In 1951 he also did Shirley. The Villette consisted of three volumes, of 232, 278 and 208 pages. Its Japanese subtitle, apart from a Villette transcription, was ‘A Note of a Solitary Soul.’ The Professor had 199 pages.

Monday, 27 February 2017

House (with Brontë connection) for sale !

Some of you may remember that two years ago (in 2015) I reported on our detective work during our annual holidays in Ireland, more in particular regarding a Brontë-related house, i.e. Kill House near Clifden, in the Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland. This is the house where Arthur Bell Nicholls’ cousin, Harriette Bell, lived with her husband, John Evans Adamson, and their children. Harriette was the cousin Arthur proposed to in 1851 and who declined his proposal.

In 2015, we found the house while driving around in  the Connemara with only vague information on its exact location. As the house was in private ownership, we could not view the inside. We only saw the house from the gate (as shown below).


Monday, 20 February 2017

Brussels Brontë Group, talks on "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights"

Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were the subjects of a day of talks by members of the Brussels Brontë Group on 11 February. It was a tradi-tionally rainy Saturday in February, and members of the Brussels Brontё Group sought refuge in the rich world of complicated women and windswept landscapes to hear two more fascinating talks from the group members.

In the morning, Judith Collins walked us through Disguise, deception and concealment in Jane Eyre. Her inspiration for this topic were the two scenes when Rochester dresses up, first in the charades and then as the gypsy-woman. She says: “it occurred to me that although these were literal disguises, that is, he changed his clothes so that he wouldn’t be recognised, there were other sorts of disguises in the novel.”

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Translations of the Brontë Devoirs

When at the Pensionnat Heger in Brussels, Charlotte and Emily Brontë wrote quite a lot of essays, or devoirs, at the instruction of Monsieur Heger, in French. These compositions are not only an important part of the legacy of their time in Brussels, they are also “a crucial link between the juvenilia and the novels,” as Sue Lonoff put it in her The Belgian Essays, published in 1996 by Yale.

For the first time the texts of all the known manuscripts were published, also in English translations. Previously, some could be found in Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë;  Enid Duthie's The Foreign Vision of Charlotte Brontë, and several articles in the Transactions of the Brontë Society.

Cover of Enid Duthie's
The Foreign Vision of Charlotte Brontë

The first separate publication of devoirs was Fannie Ratchford's and Loraine White Nagel's Emily Brontë. Five Essays Written in French, published in 1948 by the University of Texas Press (with a 1974 reprint by Folcroft from Pennsylvania; 19 pp.). Fannie Ratchford (1887-1974), an important Brontë historian of the mid-20th century, was the Librarian of the Rare Book Collections of the University of Texas in Austin, which has among its collection of Brontë manuscripts one of the devoirs. She was the author of The Brontës Web of Childhood, about the juvenilia, edited  Gondal's Queen: A Novel in Verse by Emily Jane Brontë (1955) and contributed to C.W. Hatfield’s edition of Emily’s poems (published in 1941) and the Oxford edition of the complete works of the Brontes. In 1960 she published an article in the Transactions with three more essays.

Cover of the 1948 Emily Brontë,
Five EssaysWritten in French

Photograph of Fannie Ratchford

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Villette and The Professor in Korean

The first Korean Villette was published in 1996, in a translation by Joel Lee. It was published by Ch'angjak kwa Pip'yŏngsa from Seoul. The title gives the sound of Villette, Pillett'ŭ in a transcription. The second translation’s title in transcription is Billette. This work was published in two volumes, of 270 and 218 pages. The covers were identical (apart from nrs. 1 and 2).

Cover of the 1996 Korean Villette
(Painting: Johannes Vermeer - Woman 
reading a letter  (ca 1663))

Monday, 30 January 2017

Villette and The Professor in Iran

The first Villette translated in Persian (or Farsi; as far as I could gather) was published in 1992 by Insight (474 pp.). The translation was done by Farida Timurid. She also translated Shirley. The second edition was published in 1993. The covers couldn’t be found unfortunately.
The third, fourth and fifth editions were published in 2011, 2012 (probably) and 2013 respectively, by Secretary Press (486 pp.). They have the same cover. Only the year of the fourth has been given, 1390, which corresponds with March 2011 to March 2012. The third edition is from January 2011, the fifth from March 2013, so it seems fair to assume the fourth will be from about halfway between.

Cover of the 2011, 2012 and 2013
Iranian Villette

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Villette and The Professor in Turkish

Turkey is unique in having, albeit abridged, both Villette and The Professor in one book, published in 1958 (410 pp.).  There were actually two editions of this work, published by Türkiye Yayınevi from Istanbul. This translation was done by Sayhan Bilbasar (1915-1999).
It is interesting that the jacket covers only give the The Professor title, Sevdiğim Adam, which translates as Favorite man. The book covers also give the Villette title, Istirap Yillary, or A Year of Suffering. One edition has a green cover, the other a reddish one. It’s not known which was published first.

Cover of the book jacket of the first
Turkish 1958 The Professor/Villette

Monday, 23 January 2017

A Celebration of Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë was born on 17 January 1820. To commemorate her birthday Eric has collected a few covers of her books.

Czechia, 1975

Finland, 1971

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Villette and The Professor Translations – New Acquisitions

In the last few months more translated editions of Villette and The Professor have been published. And recently two more Villettes were announced to be published in a few months time. These new acquisitions will be presented here, as well as an update on the statistical figures, showing what a successful year 2016 has been. It is for instance the best ever year for The Professor, with 12 editions so far.

A few months ago, at about the time the Brazil article was published, a second Brazilian 2016 Villette was published by Marin Claret from São Paulo. It was translated by Solange Pinheiro (856 pp.). She has also translated Wuthering Heights.

Cover of the second 2016 Brazilian

Back cover of the second 2016
Brazilian Villette